(NOTE: This column is the first in a series about various denominations. Portions of this article were researched via the following website- http://www.oldcatholic.org/index.htm)
The Old Catholic Church split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most notably that of “Papal Infallibility” (which the OCC opposes). These churches are not in communion with the Vatican and the Pope, but their union of certain European Old Catholic Churches is in full communion with the Anglican Communion. The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870, following the First Vatican Council. Today in the U.S. some OC churches ordain women and/or openly homosexual persons.
Most OC churches in the U.S.A. publicly declare their agreement with the historical “Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Union Conference at Bonn”, which took place on September 14-16, 1874. A portion of those doctrinal bullet points is as follows:
- We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon.
- We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue can not be lawfully forbidden.
- We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people.
- We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man’s justification before God.
- Salvation cannot be merited by “merit of condignity,” because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man’s works.
- We acknowledge that the number of the sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest times, but as the result of theological speculation.
- Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are “principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta.”*
- The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries.
- We acknowledge that the Church of England, and the Churches derived from her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.
- We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.
- We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from the abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church.
- We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ’s grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.
I spoke recently with Archbishop Maurice McCormick, of the Independent Old Catholic Church (with a parish in Kentucky), and we discussed the OCC and how it fits within today’s Christian spectrum in America. Many people confuse the Roman Catholic Church (or “the Catholic Church”) with the Old Catholic Church- but there are some key differences. One is that the OCC allows its priests to marry.
Bishop McCormick clearly states that “We are not under the Roman Catholic Church. Some Independent Catholic or Old Catholic are conservative and some are liberal. Some ordain homosexuals, some do not.” He also said that there is a lot of freedom in old Catholicism. Some OC churches want to be in full communion with Rome again, some do not. In asking him what a Protestant evangelical may like about the OCC, McCormick declared that his church is evangelical- and bible based. There is plenty in common with evangelicals. “The thing that makes us catholic is our belief in the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. But we believe that is biblical and don’t understand how evangelicals miss it.” In attempting to prove that point, McCormick states ”In the Gospel of John in the Bread of Life discourse , four (4) times Jesus says you must eat my flesh and drink my blood. Jesus only tells Nicademus once you must be born again.”
For other information on the Independent Old Catholic Church please visit www.independentoldcatholicchurch.com.
(Writer’s Note- This column is not an endorsement of any one particular denomination or church.)